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Public Consultation

Consultation: Proposed Sale of 5.7 Acres of Land at Devizes School, The Green, Devizes

The trustees of The White Horse Federation, in conjunction with the Local Governing Body of Devizes School (“the school”), are proposing to sell approximately 5.7 acres (2.3 hectares) of land that is currently owned by the school. As such, the trustees have a duty to consult with all relevant stakeholders on this matter; accordingly, the purpose of this communication is to provide details of the proposal and to give stakeholders the opportunity to express any views before a final decision is made by the trustees.

There will be a meeting for all interested stakeholders at the school with Dr Nick Capstick and Phil Bevan on Monday 16th December at 6.30pm in the Lower School Dining Hall.

You are invited to express your views by 28th January 2020. Further details of the process are provided at the bottom of this page.

Background

The school, located in the centre of Devizes town, benefits from significant open space amounting to more than 20 acres (8.1 hectares) excluding buildings, roads, and car parks.

The school was built in 1773 and has been added to at various times between the 1930s and the 2010s. Despite significant capital investment made in maintenance and upkeep, the school is now in need of additional investment to improve its ageing facilities.

Following discussions with lead elected members of Wiltshire Council, if approved, the entirety of all sums raised will be put at the disposal of the school to re-design learning spaces fit for 21st century education, improve and refurbish infrastructure, and develop facilities that meet the needs of local town employers. Additionally, the money raised will enhance the creative, sporting, and leisure offering for both the school, other local primary schools, and the local community.

The land we propose to sell, although belonging to the school, is currently used for two pitches. However, there are adjacent spaces where these two pitches can be moved. The land is excess to requirements and, as such, incurs costs in maintenance and upkeep for no added value to the school, its students, or community. This therefore detracts from the revenue available to improve standards at the school.

The number on roll at Devizes school is also below its Pupil Allocated Number (PAN), the number of students a school can comfortably accommodate. New housing developments close by will help to make the school even more financially viable. Additional students nearby will ensure that we can broaden the range of available subjects, including our offering of vocational qualifications, thus preventing students from seeking out-of-town provision for their A levels. This will reduce the associated cost for some students, and will also continue to ensure a high-quality educational offering is made viable locally, potentially encouraging more local students to continue their education into the sixth form.

Perhaps the biggest benefit from utilising income from this excess land is the direct impact it will have on the school learning environment, facilities for students, and the broader impact it will have on the surrounding community:

  1. The school is old, and looks and feels its age. The current estates condition survey shows a requirement across broad categories of circa £2.3m due within the next three years. The community deserves a completely updated school, fit for the 21st century, and it does not yet have one. Learning spaces are tired and configured in a way that is counter to a modern, dynamic curriculum. The funds available from the land sale will enable focused investment in terms of school improvement to infrastructure, and the development of learning spaces and environments.
  2. School and community sports and performing arts facilities will be enhanced for the benefit of students and the wider Devizes community. The school shares a campus with a sports centre, but parking facilities are woefully inadequate, resulting in underuse. By offering a small section of our land to extend car parking, we will not only be able to negotiate better rates and additional usage of the sports centre facilities for our students during school time, but we will also be able to widen the sport centre offering to the broader community.
  3. The Football Association is creating a regional hub in the Devizes area and it already has a thriving cricket and rugby scene. However, it has very little in the way of facilities for other athletes, especially girls, in the area. Working with the town planner, we are already seeking ways in which we can broaden the sports and leisure offer across the town in order to bring about the following:
  • Better physical health and wellbeing for both our students and the wider population.
  • A reduction in unhealthy eating habits and obesity.
  • Better mental health and wellbeing through engagement with sport, both during and after school hours.
  • Better economic wellbeing for the town as residents spend their hard-earned wages locally, rather than out-of-town.
  • Increased numbers of evening activities aimed at the 11- to 18-year-old age group.

Once approval has been granted by the DfE, the value and therefore the community impact will be maximised with one developer and a clear project plan developed and actioned quickly to deploy the funds within the school environment.

Residents elected as members of the council, and the wider community will be kept informed at every stage and will be consulted where necessary to ensure that we effectively inform and communicate with all stakeholders.

Figure 1: Plan View of School Land

Process

The school has significantly more open space than required for the size of school and the number of students that we currently have or can reasonably anticipate, even taking into account growth due to the proposed development. We are required to formally assess the playing field area in accordance with government defined criteria, including consideration of the needs of other schools within a mile radius (based on the same criteria). The assessment has confirmed that we will still have significantly more playing field area than required, even after disposal of 5.7 acres, as proposed.

The trustees currently consider that disposal of this portion of land would be in the best long-term interests of the school. However, it is important that we establish the views of stakeholders on the proposal. Trustees are keen to encourage all recipients of this consultation to respond, indicating whether you are for or against the proposal, in order that we can establish the views of stakeholders, which the trustees will consider prior to a final decision being undertaken. While we require your name with your comment in order to ensure the authenticity of comments received, we will ensure anonymity of any information subsequently made public. A summary of the findings from the consultation and the decision taken by the trustees will be published on the school’s website. It is expected that this will be within approximately one month of closure of the consultation period, depending on the extent and nature of comments received.

If, following this consultation, the trustees decide to proceed with the sale, an application will be submitted to the Department for Education for formal approval of the disposal, as required by the Academies Act 2010.

Expression of Views

You are invited to express any views on this proposal by 28th January 2020. We encourage you to express any views by email to admin@devizes.wilts.sch.uk or by letter to the following address:

Clerk to the Local Board,

Devizes School

The Green

Devizes, Wiltshire

SN10 3AG

You may also express your views by completing the consultation survey found at the bottom of this web page

This invitation to express views has been sent to the following stakeholders:

  • Parents/Carers of current students of Devizes School
  • Staff of Devizes School
  • Southbroom Infants’ School
  • Southbroom St James’ Junior School
  • Neighbours of Devizes School
  • Residents of houses and businesses on Nursteed Road, Pans Lane, and Festival Close
  • Devizes Leisure Centre
  • Sport England
  • Devizes Town Council
  • Wiltshire County
  • Devizes Community Centre
  • Local community (via newspaper and school website)

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The White Horse Federation